If you are a regular attendee of UK anime conventions, then you will know that Ayacon is probably the biggest of the lot.  Con fans often state that the previous Ayacon, held in 2005, was the best convention they have ever been to.  They cite a great atmosphere, parties, wide variety of events and great facilities as the main reasons, alongside an excellent venue. 

On August 14th 2009, Ayacon was back after a four-year hiatus for three days of anime-packed fun.  Knowing of the reputation of the 2005 event, Animetion was expecting very big things from the weekend. 

The venue for Ayacon is Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry.  The largest of its kind in the Midlands it plays host to regular events such as orchestras, plays, dance performances and comedians which include Jimmy Carr and Bill Bailey.  With big names like that, Animetion was hopeful the venue would prove an excellent choice for a convention with over 1,000 attendees.  On first impressions, it looked was excellent.  It was big, spacious and was held in three buildings, all close to each other, with onsite shops and cashpoints. 

Animetion went to the registrations area, in order to sign-in and obtain our conbadge, which is required to gain access to events

throughout the weekend.  Registration was swift thanks to a huge number of desks
catering for it, in fact the largest number we have seen at any convention.  Not having to queue for ages was a good start, as was the nearby seating area which allowed us to peruse the conbag. 

The conbag is something everyone receives upon signing-in at a convention, for it contains a conbook, events schedule, various advertisement leaflets and sometimes other goodies.  The first we pulled out of the canvas tote bag was the conbook and our jaws literally dropped to the floor!  Usually these books are A5 in size, sometimes all black & white and often go unread until after the convention has finished.  The Ayacon one however was A4, glossy, full colour and had the appearance of a business brochure, giving it a more professional appearance then other conbooks.  The quality of content thankfully matched its look, with several articles, full-page artwork and even a pull-out poster!  The articles included a history of conventions by sub-editor Rob Fahey, Jonathan Cullinane of Many Lemons spoke about the UK cosplay scene and there were profiles on industry leaders in Japanese pop culture, including Takashi Miike, Shigeru Miyamoto and Haruki Murakami.  The most entertaining article has to be The Top 25 anime of all time, in which the judging panel spoke about each anime.  The article wasn't taken to seriously (I mean how else could G Gundam be at number eight?), but that makes it huge fun and shows that anime fans aren't all stuck-up and are willing to take the mick.  The article was followed by an in-depth look at Macross (the winner of the Top 25 being Macross Plus) which included a timeline of the franchise, descriptions of its various incarnations and what the future held.  A final bit of fun was the 'con bingo', which invited the reader to cross off each of the convention clichés it listed.  It was great to see the last article poked fun, as it included such clichés as smelly guy, pervy photographer and morbidly obese cosplayer, all of which were present at Ayacon.  The only downside to the conbook was that it did contain a few adverts, but other then that it was very impressive and sets a high bar for other conventions.  

After that, it was onto the on-site accommodation, which was very good.  It was just a few minutes away from the where everything was taking place, making for a quick retreat if you needed to drop something off to picking something up, without worrying too much about missing anything that was going on.

Animetion was very impressed with the room’s facilities.  Unlike the previous convention accommodation stayed in, we were provided with a number of things, including a hair-dryer, towels for the shower, a selection of soaps and shampoo.  This was very useful as this saved a lot of space in our suitcases! 

There were a few negatives though.  The pillow for the bed was very uncomfortable, which despite fluffing and flumping to the nth degree, was flatter then a pancake!  Worse then this though was the dorm cleaners.  They must have been working on a time-system for when the university is open, as between 9am and 10am, someone would knock on your door and then go right ahead and unlock it before walking in, not giving you a chance to say your in there.  One member of Animetion was in the middle of changing into cosplay when this happened and were lucky enough to be fully clothed, but they could have easily walked in on someone half naked.  Perhaps if they should have waited until after 10am, once events were starting each day, to minimise disrupting people in the morning. 

After dropping off suitcases, food was the next priority and there were a few places littered about the convention where con-goers could get food.  In the main building, where most of the events were held, there was a small diner, with a selection of sandwiches and cakes.   There was also cooked food during the morning, including sausage and bacon sandwiches.  It was a nice enough selection, but depending on what you ordered, the waiting time varied.  Next up was the Asian cuisine in the reception building.  The selection here was small, including curries and stir-fries, but was decent.  Food was served fairly quickly and the food itself was very good.

Animetion's favourite spot however was onsite pub The Dirty Duck.  Looking like a traditional pub it had a fine selection of food, including some delicious burgers, along with some great ale on tap.  Unfortunately it was only open on the Friday, which meant a lot of people missed out.  It was a shame that it was closed for the remainder of the event, as we felt it had the best place for food, plus it was very spacious.

The clear top-choice for people though had to be the Costcutter that was right next to the convention buildings.  With plenty of snacks, food and alcohol available, all at cheaper prices then the pubs and diners, it is unsurprising that so many people were heading there to get whatever they might need during the weekend.

After settling down and eating, it was now time for the weekend's events to begin!  Click next below to find out about Friday's events, starting with the opening ceremony.